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JOHN KING, USA

President Barack Obama on Housing Plan; Moammar Gadhafi's Burial tomorrow; Tunisia's First Election; Interview With HUD Secretary Donovan

Aired October 24, 2011 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, HOST: Good evening everyone. We begin with breaking news tonight.

A presidential announcement that is important, urgent, yet oddly familiar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Now today, what I want to focus on is housing which is something obviously on the minds of a lot of folks here in Nevada. Probably the single greatest cause of the financial crisis and this brutal recession has been the housing bubble that burst four years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's President Obama moments ago in Las Vegas, Nevada. The place hit hardest to the housing crushes. His new plan? Making refinancing easier, even the homeowners whose mortgages are under water.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This is going to help a lot more homeowners refinance at lower rates which mean consumers save money. Those families save money. And it gets those families spending it again and it also makes it easier for them to make their mortgage payments so they don't lose their home and bring down home values in the neighborhood.

And I'm going to keep on doing everything in my power to help to stabilize the housing market, grow the economy, accelerate job growth, and restore some of the security that middle class families have felt slipping away for more than a decade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Tonight, conservatives already are calling it another misguided government bailout. Some Democrats call it too little too late. Whatever you think, the president is fighting his own history here. Did you get a sense of a bit of deja vu listening to the president? This is president Obama just a month after taking office February 2009 in Hard Hit, Mesa, Arizona.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The plan I'm announcing focuses on rescuing families who played by the rules and acted responsibly. By refinancing loans for millions of families in traditional mortgages who are underwater or close to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Back then, 20 percent of the nation's residential mortgages were underwater. Now, 27 percent of mortgages are underwater. A state by state look shows the biggest problems are in some big 2012 battlegrounds. Six in 10 mortgages in Nevada, underwater. Just shy of half under water in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, California, also states in very well shake.

Obama administration officials won't tell us just how many homeowners are likely to benefit from this new program and the truth is this president's history is again at play there. Here he is again back in 2009.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Through this plan we will help between seven and nine million families restructure or refinance their mortgages so they can afford, avoid foreclosure. And we're not just helping homeowners at risk of falling over the edge. We're preventing their neighbors from being pulled over that edge, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You heard the president, seven million to nine million. Well, the truth? Two and a half years later, the "Washington Post" reports just 1.7 million families have been helped by the home affordable refinance program. That Mesa announcement in 2009 came just one today after President Obama signed the nearly $800 billion stimulus plan. And he said the combination of that stimulus spending and the housing plan would put the economy on a path to recovery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It will prevent the worst consequences of this crisis from wrecking even greater havoc on the economy. And by bringing down the foreclosure rate, it will help to shore up housing prices for everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Sadly, the numbers don't lie. Home values nationally declined 4.5 percent in the last year. The unemployment rate, 8.2 percent when the president signed the stimulus and gave that speech, it's 9.1 percent now. And analysts are predicting a record 1.5 million foreclosures in 2012.

So will this latest White House plan finally help? The secretary of housing and urban development secretary Shaun Donovan is with us tonight. Mister Secretary, if you go through that history, it pretty sober. Why should anyone think this latest plan will prove to be the difference?

SHAUN DONOVAN, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: We've taken the housing market that was literally falling off a cliff. And we've stabilized it. But it is also true that we haven't done enough. And we haven't gone far enough. And we're going to keep pushing, keep expanding these efforts to make sure that we do get to a point where the housing market isn't just stabilized but it is recovering and recovering in a way that homeowners again have a light at the end of the tunnel and can see themselves getting back above water.

So we're continuing to push. Today's announcement is part of a broader strategy to keep making a difference in the housing market. Those are the facts.

KING: How many people, how many homeowners do you think will be held by this new revision of the rules?

DONOVAN: Well, we're going to finalize the rules over the next couple weeks with the federal regulator that is primarily responsible here. We're also going to have to see how the private sector responds. Because ultimately, we need the private sector to step up whether it's on the streamlining that we've done with second leans or mortgage insurance.

But if you look at the broad population of who is eligible. There are about four million families that have Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans that are underwater and that could benefit by a refinancing.

The average benefit is over $2,500 a year. So, it's a substantial benefit for those families. We are going to see how - have to see how many of them actually take this up. But the other thing I think that is important here, John, is the kinds of changes that we're making. Common sense changes to streamline to mortgage process. To bring down costs for refinancing could also benefit many other homeowners as well. There are six to seven million Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac borrowers who are above water, that have equity in their homes and could benefit from a substantial reduction in their interest rate. But haven't refinanced?

And so we hope that removing some of these barriers could also help them to refinance as well. And that would provide another boost to the economy.

KING: Is it fair to say you're a bit cautious about putting exact number on this because the predictions in the past, the president said seven to nine million there in the first program. And under the stimulus plan they said unemployment wouldn't go above 8.1. Is part of this caution for the history?

DONOVAN: Are we bit cautious here in numbers? Yes.

But part of the issue is we've gone, we've sat down with the private sector. We've figured out how to make these changes to streamline a process that has been too difficult to unwind to this date. But we're going to have to see how those work.

What there's no question about is that this is the right thing to do. It is something that will put more money in the family in the pockets of American families. It is something that will help the housing market more broadly and the economy more broadly because it is going to be better in terms of consumer spending.

The other thing I would say, it is good for the taxpayer in the sense that these will be safer loans. The Fannie and Freddie loans that are going to be refinanced will default less because payments will be lower. So, in that sense it is a win/win for the private sector, for the American home owner but also for the taxpayer as well.

KING: The secretary of Housing and Urban development, Shaun Donovan. Sir, appreciate your time tonight.

DONOVAN: Thank you very much.

KING: Continuing the conversation now with the politician who knows this crisis all too well. California democratic Congressman Dennis Cardoza whose constituents right in the bulls eye of the housing crisis.

Three cities in his central valley district. Modesto, Stockton, Merced at the third, fourth and sixth highest foreclosure rate in the country. Congressman, thanks for being with us tonight.

You heard the secretary say this is a win/win. This perhaps finally is some at least the beginning of the help to get people back. Is this enough?

REP. DENNIS CARDOZA (D), CALIFORNIA: Well John, I'm glad the secretary is refocused on this. Frankly, I handed them out to my district and I told him in 2009 that these programs weren't going to be enough. They will not be effective for my district. And they haven't been effective for most of the country where these problems exist.

KING: Why? What's wrong them? You heard the president back in 2009 themselves sold this at the time. They were very ambitious, very optimistic and frankly they haven't worked out to match the numbers. Is it their fault or is it just something in the market?

CARDOZA: Well, its good intentions but they haven't put enough pressure on the banks. They haven't - the programs were too cumbersome to begin. In my area, many of the homes are 70 percent underwater when they limited it to 105 and then to 125 percent of loan to value, they immediately you know cut of the worst hit areas. And those markets just continue to decline.

KING: There's an argument about this. I want to you listen here to the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is out in Las Vegas the other day. He gave an interview in the newspaper out there.

You stay administration hasn't done enough and you talk about those who are way underwater, 150 percent, 170 percent. And what you view as the government's responsibility to help them. Listen to Governor Romney. He has a very different perspective.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom. Allow investors to buy homes. Put renters in them, phase the homes up and let it turn around and come back up. The Obama administration has slow walked the foreclosure process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: His perspective is that the government will never in get it right. You say it's too cumbersome, too many rules, to have lean on the banks hard enough. His perspective is you know what? The government is never in get this right. Get out of the way. Painful maybe but let the market run its course.

CARDOZA: Well, look at Mister Romney's state of Michigan that he is so proud of being from. And you look at Detroit. And because of the spiraling values, the homes they live in, now cost less than the car they make. What cars they still make. It is a very intractable problem. When the appraisals and the values start declining, they tend to be a vortex that just keeps going until it hits bottom. We can't afford as a country to let this problem continue until we all hit bottom.

KING: You're not running for re-election.

CARDOZA: I'm not.

KING: How much does this (inaudible) district factor in effect that are not going to try again?

CARDOZA: It's a big frustration. The frustration that I was not able to get more people focused on this sooner. The neglect to this crisis until now of the administration. They talked a good game. They put in some programs that I think were well intentioned but they simply haven't worked and that --

KING: Democrat neglect is a pretty strong word. This is a president who is about to go around the country saying I want four more years. I've tried my best to have a democrat saying he has neglected one of the biggest, if not the country's biggest economies.

CARDOZA: In my opinion, this is the administration's biggest failure. And it's the reason -- without excising this cancer from the economy, you are never going to cure the patient. And I support the president. I'll vote for the president next election. I hope he wins because the alternatives are much worst.

KING: He is not going to get, he's not going to get what you want and now with the Republican house, I suspect. Why didn't, it happen in the two steer Democrats controlled everything?

CARDOZA: We could not get them to focus on it, frankly.

KING: Could not get the White House to focus on it?

CARDOZA: Right.

KING: And you tried.

CARDOZA: We tried. I've sent 30 letters. Well, we did a lot of meetings. I brought Mister Donavan to my district. He told me he had the answer. Clearly he didn't. You showed tonight in your statistics. The statistics don't lie.

When I told him that they didn't have the correct answer, they were pretty arrogant about it. He said you don't understand what you're talking about. A former realtor, a former businessman, I think I know what I was talking about. They just simply didn't listen to the members of Congress were telling them there was a better way.

KING: And what will this may sound a crass question. What will the political ramifications be for the president? I don't assume you think he'll lose California, but in your part of the state which is a little more dicey.

CARDOZA: The president has a chance to get it right. I hope he does. I want him to success succeed. America needs him to succeed. And so, I'm hopeful that this program will work better than I think it might.

It's a baby step. I think it's a positive step. And it's an acknowledgement that the problem is significant. I'm glad he's going to Las Vegas to announce it. Hopefully he'll talk to enough people there that he understands the depth of despair that's going on in our country.

My folks have been living through a depression. And 30 percent of my folks have already lost their houses. It is significant. It is awful for the people in the families going through it. And it really needs to be addressed.

KING: Appreciate your help tonight in understanding this.

CARDOZA: Thank you.

KING: Thank you Sir.

Tunisia was the first Arab country this year to overthrow its long ruling dictator and it is now the first country of the Arab Spring to have an election. How the results there could impact the entire region? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Breaking news tonight in Libya, we're after five days of letting people view Moammar Gadhafi's rotting corpse. The country's ruling council finally about to allow the former dictator to be buried. The officials tell the Reuters news agency, it will be a simple ceremony tomorrow attended by Muslim clerics and will be held at a secret location. Also tonight, Reuter reports Gadhafi's son, Saif al Islam Gadhafi has a forged passport and was trying to get out of the country somewhere near Libya's borders with Algeria.

CNN's Dan Rivers live for us in Tripoli tonight.

Dan, let's start with the burial of Moammar Gadhafi. This has been quite controversial. His family and the tribe demanding to get the body back. If this report is accurate, it doesn't sound like this is going to happen.

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it is going to happen. We were there and first of all today and they were clearly trying to wrap up the sort of public display of the body. We're hearing from one government source saying it is likely to happen tomorrow.

Another unnamed source saying possibly it will be moved by helicopter into the desert and buried out in the middle of nowhere, basically, so that it doesn't become a shrine, his grave. They have been stung pretty badly by the criticism of the handling over his capture then his killing and now his burial. And I'm sure they want to draw a line under this and move on.

KING: When you talk about stung by the criticism, Secretary of state Clinton amongst those over the week saying we need a clear and thorough investigation of whether as the traditional government says he was caught in a cross fire while they were trying get to him out of there or whether he was executed. How specific has the traditional council been about such an investigation and the transparency of it?

RIVERS: well, they said there is going to be a committee effectively set up, looking into it. It is just how independent is that committee going to be and how thorough will it be? I think it's a big question.

There has been no independent expert able to go in and examine the body. Yes, there was a postmortem but we still haven't been told whether the gunshot wound to the head that we can see was at close range or was from the cross fire further away. I think the more suspicious case the more difficult case for the NTC is what is in the son? I mean he was shown in a video captured clearly alive and not apparently in a life threatening condition and then wound up with a bullet in his head work the bullets in his neck and five bullets in his back. No one has explained how that happened yet.

KING: Serious questions for the transitional government as we approach a very important time as they try to prove their credibility. Dan Rivers, tonight for us live in Tripoli. Thank you, Dan.

We are also expecting breaking news in Libya's next door neighborhood Tunisia. That's the first country of course to overthrow the dictator in this year of the so-called Arab Spring. The interim government there set to announce the results of the first ever free elections for representatives. Those representatives will write a new democratic constitution.

And tonight a moderate Islamist party predicts it will have the most votes. Ivan Watson is live for us.

Ivan, is that likely to prove true, a moderate Islamist party getting the lead out of this first round of elections?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It does look like it's headed toward a victory for this party (inaudible) which was banned in this country a little more than nine months ago when the dictator Ben Ali was still in charge here.

Not only is this party predicting that it is going to win but so are some of the parties that ran against it, one secular party in particular. But it doesn't seem like Abnada (ph) is going to have enough votes, enough seats to have an outright majority. It's likely going to have to form some kind of a coalition with at least one other secular political party to form consensus on writing a constitution on forming a new government. And that may comfort some people who are worried about an Islamist party coming to power here who have expressed fear that it could restrict secular life styles or take away women's rights. All accusations the party itself continues to deny, John.

KING: And they are watching next door in Egypt. They are watching in Libya. They are watching around the region and around the world. Describe for us how this worked out in terms of the safety and security and the emotions of this historic vote.

WATSON: Well, the election monitors here, diplomats I've talked to, Tunisians themselves are applauding what was, appeared by all appearances to be transparent, free, fair election, a complicated one.

You had more than 60 political parties competing on Sunday, thousands of independent candidates. And the ballots were enormous. You know I looked in one district. There were 95 choices that people could pick from. If you consider that you basically had single party rule here for close to a quarter century. And people didn't really feel like they had any freedom or any choice on who to vote for. That's a pretty incredible change and to have organized this in such a short period.

All the election monitors I've talk to have said this is an incredible accomplishment for Tunisians and we have to remember, this Arab Spring, this Arab awakening couldn't have been possible without the first Tunisian example in January when the Tunisians rose up and peacefully overthrew their dictatorial president and inspired many other Arab countries to try to do the same.

KING: An inspiration then and programs now, an inspiration now. Again Ivan Watson, live for us in Tunisia. Ivan, thank you.

And at this time of dramatic, sometimes violence change across out there in the Middle East. Let's get some perspective from the New York time columnist, Nicholas Kristof.

Nick, I want to start with where he we left off with Ivan. It is remarkable to see this carries out so soon after the dictator was tossed. Will this now be a litmus test for Egypt, the transitional government in Libya and maybe beyond?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I think that it will, frankly. At the beginning of the year, Tunisia set an example for, all the world. And today it did the same thing by being the first to have free elections. In this ways I mean we're focusing on the apparent victory of the Nahada (ph) Islamic party. But at the end of the day, this wasn't just a victory for Nahada (ph). This was a victory for Democratic process in Tunisia and the entire Arab world.

KING: And the president of the United States had a conversation on the phone today with Field Marshal Tantawi. If people are unfamiliar, he is the military leader of Egypt at the moment, the senior military leader.

The president says both leaders agreed, they would have an open democracy and things would move quickly toward the elections scheduled quite soon in Egypt. How confident are you? There have been a lot of tensions and activists behind the revolution here have been quite skeptical.

KRISTOF: Yes, I'm not terribly confident of the process and a number of other countries and Egypt is one of them. I think that the military has been not a particularly helpful part of the process in Egypt. But Tunisia is going to help. It will set an example once more. And I hope that Americans don't just focus on the fact that it was an Islamist party that won. You know I think there's a tendency for Americans to have this nervousness about the idea of an Islamist party winning. And you know at the end of the day, their aim in Tunisia is not something like Iran. It something that looks more like, a Turkey where you have a secular democracy run by a moderate Islamist party.

KING: It would be helpful if all Americans pay close attention because there's a lot of nuance to learn about these different parties in different places and it's an important point.

How about Libya? How important do you think it is for the transitional government to have a transparent investigation as to whether Gadhafi, is to whether perhaps one of his sons was just coldly executed, and how might that slow stall if you will, any sort of next phase, next chapter in Libya's transition?

KRISTOF: I'm skeptical that investigation will get very far. It is important for the international community. But I think among Libyans themselves, there's probably, a, pretty broad acceptance that probably Gadhafi was executed. And b, pretty big acceptance that's no problem at all.

So you know from outside, we may see that as a lapse in the process and it is. But at the end of the day, I don't think that will be something that Libyans themselves will focus on. And right now they're the ones in charge.

KING: We want to cross North Africa there. We don't have to go terribly far to see other tumult and change in the region including Iraq, where when the president announced by the end of the year all the troops will be out, there were some saying does Iran win here after nearly 4,500 American fatalities in Iraq. Billions of dollars spent. Does Iran somehow win? I want to you listen to this, the secretary of state speaking to our Candy Crowley over the weekend saying Iran better take notice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA SECRETARY OF STATE: We have a lot of presence in that region. So no one, most particularly Iran, should miscalculate about our continuing commit many to and with the Iraqis going forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What's the biggest question, when it comes to Iran right now, about how they get the next play, if you will? What's the next card they will play?

KRISTOF: I guess it's that Iran has won so far, since 2003. But part of that was based on the nationalistic resentment on the part of Iraqis about our presence, about what was perceived by many Iraqis as our occupation of that country.

Now, as Americans are pulled out, I think you know it is quite plausible that at that point, the nationalists turn against Iran. And you know there's a really difference between Arabs and Persians. And so, I guess the question would be, whether once we're gone, whether it becomes more difficult for Iran to exploit that kind of antipathy within Iran toward outsiders.

KING: And lastly, I want ask you the administration decided to recall Ambassador Ford from Syria because they believed that Syrian regime was putting his life at risk. They also said that they'll try to get him back as soon as possible. He's been a very important spokesman and witness for the United States and the world there. Do you think, do you think watching what happens in Tunisia, what has happened in Libya, will it empower and bold in the opposition in Syria?

KRISTOF: First, Ambassador Ford has been truly an extraordinary ambassador. He's been a wonderful spokesman for not only American interests but also American values in Syria. He deserved a hero's welcome back here.

Now, I think that what has happened in Tunisia and in Libya will embolden them Syrian protesters. But the question is whether being embolden is enough. At the end of the day, they're fighting and they are facing people with machine guns and sometimes boldness and vision and courage isn't enough to defeat an army with tanks and machine guns.

KING: Important points and perspective. Nick Kristof in New York Times. Nick thanks for your time tonight.

KRISTOF: Sure.

KING: Ahead here, Rick Perry's major campaign re-organization and the one time friend, well, who isn't a part of the Perry plan.

Plus, researchers say debris from the spring's earthquake and Tsunami in Japan crossing the Pacific Ocean quicker than expected. Where and when, it will wash the shore? That's still to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Texas Governor Rick Perry tonight is announcing a major reorganization of his Republican presidential campaign adding a half dozen operatives with deep experience in Republican and national politics.

One man not on the list, Karl Rove, the former George W. Bush political guru who once was close to Perry but, well, not so much anymore.

But Rove offered Perry some unsolicited advice today. And here's tonight truth.

Rove was dead on and Governor Perry would be wise to listen. At issue, Governor Perry's polish decision to try a cute answer when asked about President Obama and the so-called Birther debate.

Governor Perry got off on the right foot telling Parade Magazine "I have to reason to think otherwise" when he was asked if he believed President Obama was born in the United States.

But then the governor wandered into the Birther conspiracy theory mess. "I don't know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night. He doesn't think it's real," Governor Perry said, when asked about the long form birth certificate President Obama released in April.

Trump, as I found out firsthand simply doesn't want to believe it. Or at least simply doesn't want to stop getting credit and publicity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: He didn't do it for Hillary Clinton. He didn't do it for John McCain. He did it for me. The fact is I get things done. And I don't understand why he didn't do it a lot sooner, John, but he didn't and it's a shame.

KING: Are you at all maybe a little embarrassed for stoking what many in the country see as a foolish debate?

TRUMP: No. I think I really did a great job in getting him to -- I mean, first of all, I haven't seen it. I'm looking at that. I'll look at it later. I don't need to look at your copy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, to quote Mr. Trump, Governor Perry, is to stir the birther debate anew. The truth is Karl Rove says it best.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KARL ROVE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You associate yourself with a nutty view like that, and you damage yourself. And I know he went, and he's trying to cultivate, as all of them are, Donald Trump in order to get his endorsement, but this is not the way to go about doing it. Because it starts to marginalize you in the minds of some of the people who you need in order to get the election.

And there's a simple answer. Yes, he was born in the United States. Yes, he is eligible to serve, and don't associate yourself with sort of this nutty fringe group.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It starts to marginalize you. Nutty fringe group. Good advice. Especially when you're a candidate who already has talked of seceding from the union and who, in recent weeks as a presidential candidate, has suggested sending troops into Mexico...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: To kill these drug cartels and to keep them off of our border and to destroy their networks. I don't know all of the different scenarios that would be out there. But I think it's very important for to us work with them to keep that country from failing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: ... and also talked of giving the chairman of the Federal Reserve, well, a not-so-friendly Texas welcome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: I don't know what you all would do to them in Iowa. But we'd -- we would treat them pretty ugly down in Texas. I mean, printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous -- treasonous, in my opinion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, to be fair, Governor Perry has run his state for a decade, so maybe Texas voters know when he's being serious and when it's all tongue in cheek. But his national introduction is still a work in progress. And, well, it's been more than a little rough. So it's wise, Governor, to be a bit more careful.

And here's the simple "Truth." The birther debate just isn't funny anyway.

Up next, an important milestone in the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor.

And Michele Bachmann's New Hampshire crisis. What it does to her campaign strategy and the 2012 race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Here's the latest news you need to know right now.

Thousands of now-homeless earthquake survivors in eastern Turkey face a second night outdoors in near freezing temperatures. Yesterday's magnitude 7.2 quake killed at least 279.

Researchers say pieces of debris from this spring's earthquake and tsunami in Japan are crossing the Pacific Ocean more quickly than expected. The "Daily Mail" newspaper reports between 5 and 20 million tons of junk, everything from plastic bottles to refrigerators to fishing boats, may reach the U.S. West Coast in as little as three years.

Just days after meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai is telling Pakistan -- get this -- he'll be on their side if Pakistan ever goes to war with the United States.

The prosecution rested today in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson's former doctor, Conrad Murray. The defense may finish presenting its witnesses by the end of the week.

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Asheville, North Carolina, now for two weeks of intensive therapy as she continues her remarkable recovery for being shot in the head last January. We certainly wish her the best.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" coming up at the top of the hour. You're here with a preview. You had an interview with Congressman Steve King. This is a very, very important interview.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it was. He -- this is an endorsement that everybody wants in Iowa. He endorsed Fred Thompson last time around, and that was actually what gave them the leg up on John McCain to finish third in Iowa. Well, he went pheasant shooting with Rick Perry this weekend. We're going to talk all about that including, you know, is Rick Perry as good with a gun as he says? And also the serious stuff, on a tax plan and endorsement. So we're going to get to the bottom line of that.

Plus, we have a special guest to solve all the problems in Washington. I found someone who could do it, John.

KING: Elmo, excellent!

BURNETT: Yes. I thought, you know, it's just that bad that we need somebody like Elmo. So we got that coming up. Plus, nights (ph) we can't resist.

KING: You know what? Elmo would understand the daycare center here. That's actually a brilliant interview. That's good. I'm going to watch. I'm not so -- I'll get the endorsement part later about Steve King. I'm interested in the gun part.

BURNETT: If Elmo endorsed somebody, that endorsement would probably deliver the win.

KING: Amen to that. Erin, we'll see you in just a few minutes.

BURNETT: All right.

KING: First Michele Bachmann's staff quit en masse. Well, today they let everyone know why. Next, the (ph) chaos in her campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I stand for profit and believe in profit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: On the trail today, the former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, filed his paperwork for the New Hampshire primary and picked up another big endorsement. Former governor, John Sununu, who also recently served as the New Hampshire state Republican chairman. Romney and Sununu then side by side at a rally in Concord.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What happened to the first stimulus? Did it work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

ROMNEY: Did Obama care work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

ROMNEY: Did the president's plan for cape and trade to raise the cost of energy work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, don't look for Michele Bachmann in New Hampshire any time soon. Her entire New Hampshire senior staff resigned and then released an open letter today, criticizing her national campaign team. Listen to this.

Quote, "The manner in which some in the national team conducted themselves toward team New Hampshire was rude, unprofessional, dishonest and at times cruel. But more concerning was how abrasive, discourteous, and dismissive someone in the national team were towards many New Hampshire citizens."

The hopes of the Bachmann campaign now rest on, in a word, Iowa.

Let's discuss that New Hampshire dust-up and more with top Bachmann aide Alice Stewart. She joins us from Little Rock, Arkansas, tonight. And with me here, two CNN contributors: Donna Brazile and David Frum. Liberal Donna, conservative David. We'll go there.

Alice, I have to start with you and these tensions between team New Hampshire and team national. You heard that. They said that the national team, of which you are a senior part, were discourteous to them, rude to them, to the staff in New Hampshire. But in their words also somehow discourteous to the people of New Hampshire. What gives here?

ALICE STEWART, BACHMANN CAMPAIGN: It's unfortunate. They want to call names, that's their prerogative. We wish them all the best. We came off of a fantastic four-day bus tour in New Hampshire a few weeks ago and had a great time, enjoyed meeting the people.

And Michelle did what she does best, better than any candidate, meeting the people of New Hampshire one-on-one. And the great thing about the people of New Hampshire is they make their decisions based on meeting the candidates face to face. You've seen it, John. It's not about the pundits or the polls or what the papers say. It's about meeting the candidates face to face one or two or three times. And she was able to do that and connect with the people in New Hampshire, and we had a great visit there.

But at the end of the day, our focus has always been on Iowa. We plan to spend quite a bit of time in Iowa. And New Hampshire is a critical state. We're going to file our paperwork there to be on the ballot this week. But our focus will be on Iowa, as it has been from day one.

As a sign of the support she has in Iowa, she won the Iowa straw poll, which she did with less money and less time than any of the other candidates. And that's because she connects with the people of Iowa.

KING: She did win the Iowa straw poll, but Donna Brazile, she's also recently slipped in the polls. Governor Perry getting in the race, Mr. Cain rising in the race. The latest University of Iowa Hawkeye poll October 12-19: Cain, 37; Romney, 27; Paul, 12; Gingrich, 8, Bachmann at 4 percent.

So you have a staff issue in New Hampshire. You've been involved in many campaigns. These things happen. They're not usually as publicly bloody as that one is, but they happen. They happen. Iowa now, if you're at 4 percent in Iowa, she's got a lot of work to do. DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: She has a lot of work, and it's crunch time, as you well know, John, because this is when voters begin to really look at the candidates. They've been -- we've been going through dating season. It's time now to try to find somebody that you really want to go to the primary or caucus night with.

And I think she's having a very difficult time finding traction outside of Iowa and also getting a -- getting a single message that will resonate with voters in the caucus state.

Well, look, I still believe that this race is volatile and fluid. And if she can pull together her campaign staff, get them refocused on winning the caucuses, she might be able to make a comeback.

KING: How much does this stuff hurt you? David, you've been involved in the campaign. She was, she did, she had a great New Hampshire debate in June. She was rising in the polls. She was a Tea Party favorite, good base with social conservatives. You would think it's a good match for Iowa.

DAVID FRUM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: She raised a big bunch of money, let's not forget, as a member of the House of Representatives. She was extremely successful at that.

It's also true that she had similar kinds of office issues when she was a member of the House of Representatives. There was a lot of turnover in that congressional office. Part of it may be the pressure of being such a national celebrity. And part of it may be that what works in Iowa, really, especially this year, emphatically not to work in New Hampshire.

But New Hampshire is not very congenial with the kinds of issues that matter so much to those Iowa caucus goers. People really need to observe the difference in the kind of person who votes. You have to be in a room for a long time if you want to participate in Iowa. New Hampshire, you go, you pull the ballot, you drop the lever, you drop the paper. You are much less committed. There's a much bigger audience, and they vote in different way.

KING: Alice, have you talk to the congresswoman about this? Because this has to sting a little bit. It has to leave her a bit unnerved, at least asking questions. In this letter, again, the New Hampshire team said they like Congresswoman Bachmann. Most of them said they're still going to support and vote for Congresswoman Bachmann.

But they say, "It saddens this team to see a dedicated patriot, a person so desperately needed in the White House, sequestered behind a wall of pretense, guarded by political operatives consumed by their own egos."

Now, who are they talking about, and what does the congresswoman say when I assume she is agreeing with the national staff, because none of the national staff has been fired. But what does she say when people tell her -- give her this letter? STEWART: Well, it's disheartening, obviously, when members of the staff or volunteers or people who are working with the team decide to communicate with the media as opposed with the campaign. We haven't heard anything from these people. It's unfortunate they chose to make it in such a public way.

But at the end of the day, as we said, New Hampshire is important. But our focus is on Iowa. And Michele is going to continue to do what she does and campaign in Iowa. We'll also spend time in New Hampshire. But first and foremost, we have to -- have to get through the important first caucus state. And that's what she's focused on.

You know, things come and go. And as Donna and David both said, there's a lot of work to be done between now and the time the primaries and caucus starts. As Donna says, a lot of the -- the voters out there are through the dating phase. It's time to choose who you want to walk down the aisle with.

But keep in mind: this time in '08, Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani were leading in the polls. And someone named Governor Huckabee, who a lot of folks weren't really familiar with at the time, he came on to win Iowa caucuses. And I was with Governor Huckabee, and I know what it feels like to be at this point and be down in the polls and the tremendous hurdle you have ahead of you.

And the good thing is that he, just like Michele, can connect with the people in Iowa and share their views and values and can go to either a church or a coffee shop or a machine shop and really connect with them one-on-one which is what the people of Iowa expect.

BRAZILE: John, while you might not see it on television every night, but I guarantee, every campaign right now is making some major staff changes. Why? Because this is when you really shake things up. I became campaign manager in October 2000. But I wasn't the first campaign manager.

KING: Every campaign is making changes tonight. They'll all make shifts. Everybody hang on. David and Donna are going to stay with us. Alice, we'll see you in Iowa. I hope you've got cold weather there in Little Rock, Arkansas. Pack the warmest clothes you've got. We'll see you out in Iowa soon, Alice.

And when we come back here, Joe Biden helps us out with tonight's "Number."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tonight's "Number," well, it comes courtesy of the vice president. Seventy-four. That's how old Joe Biden would be, now the vice president of the United States, if he won the 2016 presidential election. He would be that old, 74, on inauguration day.

Now, most of you probably thought, wait. He's not going to run for president, is he? Well, I thought that, too, but listen here. He talked to Candy Crowley this weekend. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm probably in the best shape I've been in my life. I'm doing pretty well. I'm enjoying what I'm doing. And as long as I do, I'm going to continue to do it. We'll find out. You know, let's get the president re- elected.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: OK. But a possibility. You're not closing that door?

BIDEN: Not closing anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Not closing any doors. Now, I saw the vice president recently. He is in great shape. But how would that match up?

Joe Biden, 74. Well, Harold Statson ran for president when he was 84. Didn't work. Mike Revell, the former governor of Alaska, nope. Ron Paul at 76, he's running now. Ronald Reagan was elected at age 69. John McCain ran at 72. He would have been the oldest president in our history if he won that election. Bob Dole was running for president. The same for him back there.

Ronald Reagan was our oldest president. He was 77 years old when he left office, but Joe Biden in 2016, is that a possibility?

We're back with David Frum, Donna Brazile. Joining us, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Not closing any doors.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It was shocking to me. I mean, it was absolutely stunning. I mean, I remember when Dick Cheney ran and he said, you know, "I'm running with George W. Bush, and I've given him my word that I will never run for elective office," and he didn't. And so I thought Biden was kind of on the same page, but I guess not.

KING: Let's listen -- let's listen to a little bit more. Listen to just a little bit more here where he's saying, "Look, I wouldn't have this job now, vice president, if I didn't think I was qualified to be numero uno."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I wouldn't have run for president in the first place. And I don't think the president would have picked me unless he thought I'd be good at the job. But my job now and will be and remains vice president of the United States, and we've got the order right. President Obama, Vice President Biden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Donna, I'm fascinated by this. It's a theory at the moment; it's a theory. We'll see what happens in 2012. Maybe he's got four more years as vice president. Maybe Obama loses it, and Biden is sitting out there and he'd have a pretty powerful job in the Democratic Party.

You managed Al Gore's campaign. If a vice president, winner or loser -- Walter Mondale was a huge figure. he ran after they lost. If the vice president holds such huge sway if he runs, what kind of signal is Joe Biden sending by saying not closing any doors?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, it's a long way, as you know, from 2016, and our concentration is on the re-election of Barack Obama. But you know, when I think about 2016, I think about Joe Biden. But I've also written down my own list. I think...

BORGER: Hillary Clinton?

BRAZILE: Well, Clinton. But also in the Senate you've got Kirsten Gillibrand. You've got Senator Mary Landrieu. You've got Katie Higgin. Clearly, you...

KING: Are you telling Joe Biden to get out of the way for the women? That's what you're telling him.

BRAZILE: Well, I'm just saying we've got Bev Perdue of North Carolina. Then we've got a lot of other male governors, Duvall Patrick, John Hinkenlooper, Brian Schweitzer, Martin O'Malley and Andrew Cuomo.

KING: David, let the record reflect the men were low on Donna's list.

FRUM: You asked this question. You're presupposing that he thought about the question even 11 seconds before he started talking.

BORGER: Obviously he didn't.

FRUM: Obviously, he didn't. He was just gassing again, and, that raises a sharper and more immediate question. Why is he on the ticket in 2012? Why doesn't President Obama want to have a chance to shape the party after him by picking somebody who would be a credible candidate?

KING: That is -- that is the Bush-Cheney question. That is the Bush-Cheney question with the Republicans. A lot of this turmoil in the Republican Party a lot of people say might not be the same.

FRUM: And what is this loose person bringing to President Obama right now? That is -- that's the kind of thing...

KING: He actually has -- if you watch him in small-town America, blue-collar America he actually is great in the union hall. If Joe Biden gets rapped in this town a lot but is good on the trail. I think it's an important question generationally for the next generation of the party. In terms of the campaign or just hands down appeal, I think a lot of people in this town make a mistake. BRAZILE: ... success and accomplishments. You've got to include Joe Biden as well as Hillary Clinton in the recipe for President Obama's success on so many issues.

BORGER: Actually, he and President Obama get along a lot better than a lot of people think. And this president really values Joe Biden. I do not believe he would ever dump him.

KING: Whether you like or dislike the results he's also been important in negotiations -- recent negotiations.

FRUM: He won't do that because presidents don't like to question their original choice. But we've had many more vice presidents in American history than presidents. They did used to come off the ticket all the time.

KING: Sure.

FRUM: And the habit of not rotating them out does raise a question. If -- if you want to shape the party after you, this is the moment to do it.

KING: If the polls, if the polls are pitiful in three or four more months this question will come back up again.

BORGER: Sure. Sure.

KING: ... will drive at people in debates. All right. But if the president of the United States is looking, is looking maybe, if he's looking maybe or if people are thinking for the future of the Democratic Party, you would look, what, for a star of screen and stage, someone who gets politics, can do a great job in television. Maybe you'd look for Donna Brazile.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRAZILE: I just don't want him to blow up in our face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How will he blow up in your face?

BRAZILE: His marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you hearing something?

BRAZILE: Of course I am. I'm hearing they live apart. And if I'm hearing it, the Republicans are hearing it, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they were hearing it, they'd use it.

BRAZILE: No, they would do what we would do. Release it the day before he speaks.

Of course you don't have an issue with it, Eli. Peter Florek is in office. When he runs for governor they will use it. They will use all of it. Not just on him but his wife, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now in the fictional -- in the fictional "The Good Wife" there, Eli is trying to get Peter Florek a speaking spot at the Democratic National Convention, and Donna Brazile is saying no way.

BRAZILE: Well, that's right. I had a lot of problems with it. You know what? I imagined Rahm Emanuel sitting across the table and I said, "Let her go."

BORGER: You are tough. You are one tough lady.

BRAZILE: I looked at Eli and I said, "That's Rahm."

KING: But that's not acting. How many times have you had that conversation with people trying to get spots?

BRAZILE: A lot. It wasn't acting, but it really was a great opportunity. I want to thank all of the producers and the cast. It was great to work with them. I look forward to my next gig.

KING: How is she as an actress?

FRUM: She was terrific.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BORGER: Better than being a news actress right?

BRAZILE: Well, you know, but I love my colleagues here at CNN and, of course, ABC and other places, so I'll stick with it.

FRUM: ... snacks in the trailer (ph).

KING: That is -- that is art imitating life, though, David. When you're getting ready for a convention, there are a lot of people want to have their star. Barack Obama if not for John Kerry in 2004, we might not be seeing him in the White House today. Everybody wants those spots, and sometimes you have to say no. Right?

FRUM: Sometimes you have to say -- of course the only time anyone remembers is when you say yes.

BRAZILE: I've been lucky over the last two cycles to have a voice in that process, and thank God that Al Gore and of course...

KING: Is he going to have a spot at the convention?

BRAZILE: He looks the part.

KING: I don't think he would speak the part if he spoke at your convention. I'm guessing not. How do you look matters more than what you say.

FRUM: Maybe that's what she is saying.

KING: David, Donna, Gloria, thank you. That's all for us tonight.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now. Take it away, Erin.